Posted on December 29 2021
It is estimated that over 40 million people in India struggle with a thyroid disorder. Hypothyroid being more common that hyperthyroid. Roughly one in every ten people struggle with an underachieve thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition where the thyroid does not create and release enough thyroid hormone into the bloodstream. Due to this, our metabolism slows down. This condition affects women three times more than it affects men.
Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid, can make you gain weight and feel tired quickly. It can also make you incapable of tolerating cold temperatures. HRT or hormone replacement therapy is the primary treatment for hypothyroidism. Here, a synthetic form of thyroid hormone is injected via a pill to make up for the lack of production by the body.
This article will deal with hypothyroidism, its symptoms, the ideal diet plan for people with hypothyroidism and some practical weight loss tips.
But if you are looking for details on hyperthyroidism, read this article instead:
What is hypothyroidism?
Our thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped organ located in the base of our throat. The thyroid gland has multiple functions, including regulating body temperature, aiding in growth and development and even boosting your metabolism. Hypothyroidism is also associated with an Impared libido in men and women.
An underachieve thyroid gland does not produce enough T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (tetraiodothyronine or thyroxine), two of the three essential thyroid hormones. This leads to multiple effects in the body, including:
- Weight gain
- Heart failure
According to Dr. Soham Patel, "The idea is to lower chronic inflammation, if we can lower chronic inflammation, we can reduce the stress on the immune system, and heal the leaky gut, which may have started the entire process [of hormonal imbalance]"
Dr. Soham, a practicing endocrinologist operating from Tampa, Florida recommends a plant- centric diet along with lifestyle changes to reduce inflammation.
How does hypothyroidism affect your metabolism?
The main task of the thyroid gland is to control our metabolism.
Metabolism refers to the process of how the body transforms food into energy and later uses to function. The thyroid secretes the hormones T4 and T3 to control our metabolism, and these hormones work throughout the body to instruct the body's cells how much energy they should use. Additionally, they also control our body temperature and heart rate.
The thyroid hormones also controls the speed of our metabolism. So, the faster our metabolism, the more calories our body burns at rest. Therefore, people with hypothyroidism make less thyroid hormone meaning they have a slower metabolism and burn fewer calories at rest. So think of putting in all the hard work to lose weight, but your bodyweight just does not budge or, your body responds very slowly irrespective of how hard you work.
Having a slow metabolism can come with several health risks as it will leave you tired, increase the blood cholesterol levels, and make it difficult to lose weight.
Doing moderate or high-intensity training can help maintain your weight with hyperthyroidism. It can include exercises such as running, hiking, fast-paced walking, and rowing, etc.
Research also suggests moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise can help boost your thyroid hormone levels and speed up your metabolism. But if long term sustainable weight loss is your main goal, then start by making nutritional and lifestyle changes to balance your thyroid hormone first.
Here is an example of what I mean by lifestyle changes:
When our thyroid works correctly, it makes hormones constantly, releases them, and makes new hormones to replace the used ones. This process keeps our metabolism functioning and all of our body's systems in check.
If the thyroid hormone quantity is too high (known as hyperthyroidism) or too low (known as hypothyroidism), it impacts the entire body.
Who is affected by hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism affects people of every age, gender and ethnicities. Given that iodine deficiency is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism, people living away from coastal area's and eating produce from iodine deprived and eroded soil are most commonly affected by this condition. Iodine is most commonly found in seafood and soil around the coastal regions.
What was initially believed to only affect the older and post menopausal population, is now common even in teens.
Though Hashimoto, the auto immune condition associated with a poorly functioning thyroid gland does have a genetic component, 50% of kids born with a genetic mutation do not develop thyroid.
This goes on to show that environmental triggers, nutritional habits and lifestyle changes play a huge role when it comes to thyroid related diseases.
Women are most likely to be affected by thyroid. Particularly women post the menopausal age.
The best diet for hypothyroidism.
According to a study published in Public Health Nutrition, plant- based diet's (devoid of animal products and dairy) cut the risk of developing a thyroid disorder by half compared to diets that consist of meat and dairy products.
In the United States and Canada, as part of the Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2), researchers assessed the dietary patterns and hyperthyroid treatment histories of 66,000 individuals.
Their study found that those who excluded animal products from their diet had 52 per cent lower odds of hyperthyroidism compared with omnivores. Further, it was found that Lacto-ovo and pesco-vegetarians have lower odds of hyperthyroidism than omnivores, to a lesser extent.
Hyperthyroidism has many causes, but it is mostly caused due to autoimmune dysfunction. Therefore, the study hypothesized that the protective effect of vegan diets due to the absence of meat, eggs, and dairy products, containing high estrogen concentrations could be linked to better autoimmune function.
The high concentration of immune-boosting antioxidants found in plant foods could also contribute to better health.
Evidence has proved that plant-based diets are a smart choice for thyroid disorders. Both vegetarian and vegan diets are smart options. One study shows that vegetarian diets are not associated with an increased risk of hypothyroidism. Vegan diets, expected to lack iodine due to the complete exclusion of animal products, too tend to be protective.
What to Do if You Have Thyroid Disease?
As already stated earlier, thanks to the high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in whole plant foods, a vegan or plant-based diet is beneficial if you’re already dealing with a thyroid problem. But it is important to note that exercise, nutritional changes and lifestyle modifications work together to help manage the condition.
A healthy thyroid is vital for metabolism, weight control, hormonal balance, stable body temperature and much more. Therefore, the best way to support it is by taking care of your body as a whole. Work with an expert to include a wide range of whole, colourful, plant-based foods. This will help fix your gut and the gut is inevitably linked to any hormonal diseases.
Further, do not skip your annual physical checkup. Remember that catching problems early can help prevent serious issues from developing, and it will also protect your thyroid from future damage.
What's the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism?
In hypothyroidism, the thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormone. Thus, when getting tested, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level's show up higher. This is a sign that the body is working hard in keeping up with the lack of thyroid hormones being produced. An autoimmune condition that leads to hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's. Though, there could be multiple causes to hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is also associated with weight gain, slower metabolism (the body does not burn as many calories at rest), dry skin, puffy eyes and face, increased hunger, lethargy and even digestive issues sometimes.
Hyperthyroidism on the other hand is an overactive thyroid gland. Grave's disease is a type of immune disorder that might lead to hyperthyroidism. Though, there could be other disorders to that cause hyperthyroidism.
Excess production of the thyroid hormone in hyperthyroidism can damage the organs like the heart in the body. Besides this, rapid weight loss, increased anxiety and heart palpitation, excessive sweating, reduced hair quality and health could also accompany hyperthyroidism. Absence of a regular menstrural cycle or scan periods are also observed with some women.
What causes hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism could have a primary cause or a secondary cause.
A primary cause is a condition directly impacting the thyroid and causing it to create low levels of thyroid hormones. A secondary cause, in contrast, is something that causes the pituitary gland to fail. It means it cannot send thyroid-stimulating hormone (or TSH) to the thyroid gland to balance the thyroid hormones.
Generally, the primary causes of hypothyroidism are more prevalent. The most common amongst these primary causes is an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto's disease.
Also known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, it is a condition hereditary passed down through a family. In Hashimoto's disease, our body's immune system attacks and damages the thyroid gland and prevents the thyroid gland from creating and excreting enough thyroid hormone.
The nutritional treatment for the same is similar to any other anti- immune condition, a whole- food plant- centric diet. Watch the below to understand more:
The other primary causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Thyroiditis (inflammation condition of the thyroid gland)
- Treatment of hyperthyroidism (the radiation and surgical removal of the thyroid gland)
- Iodine deficiency (lack of sufficient iodine)
- Hereditary conditions (a medical condition passed down through your family)
In some rare cases, thyroiditis can also happen after pregnancy (postpartum thyroiditis) or a viral illness.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Usually, the symptoms of hypothyroidism develop slowly over time and sometimes for years. They include:
- Feeling tired
- Experiencing numbness and tingling in your hands
- Having constipation
- Gaining weight
- Experiencing soreness throughout your body
- Having higher than normal blood cholesterol levels
- Feeling depressed
- Being unable to tolerate cold temperatures
- Having dry, coarse skin and hair
- Experiencing a decreased sexual interest
- Having frequent and heavy menstrual periods
- Physical changes in your face (like drooping eyelids, puffiness in the eyes and face)
- Having your voice become lower and hoarser
- Feeling more forgetful
One magic herb for hypothyroidism management.
Hashimoto’s disease, also known as autoimmune thyroiditis, is an organ-speciﬁc autoimmune disorder. Here, our body attacks our thyroid gland, which can often lead to hypothyroidism due to the destruction and scarring of the gland itself.
if someone told me there there was one specific herb to help balance an autoimmune condition, I would not believe them. But science says otherwise.
Now there are more than 90 chemicals that can disrupt our hormonal balance or thyroid function. However, only a few of these pollutants show that they contribute to autoimmune thyroid disease, one being polyaromatic hydrocarbons.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed mainly when muscle meats like pork, beef, fish, or chicken are cooked by high-temperature methods, like grilling. PCBs are also used in industrial processes, and they end up in people’s bodies through the consumption of fish and other meat and eggs.
Thus, plant-based eaters have lower rates of hypothyroidism. Besides, despite their lower iodine intake, vegan diets tend to be protective.
But despite the diet, one herb seems to stand above the rest. That's Nigella Sativa, or, black cumin, also known as kalongi.
There are numerous health-promoting effects of black cumin, and hence it makes an appearance in all my clients meal plans, but Kalongi can specifically help in Hashimoto management too!
Check out this study for example, where participants with Hashimoto's were asked to consume just 1/2 tsp of powdered Kalongi seeds everyday for eight weeks. After the 8 week period, not only did the clients who were on the study lost weight, but also saw a significant drop in TSH production!
There are over a hundred research studies talking about the benefits of black cumin seeds on cholesterol management, blood sugar management, weight loss and even thyroid management. I do not suggest using any more than 1/2 tsp powdered black cumin seeds per day. It has to be powdered. You can have this anytime of the day. I personally like to add it to my salad.
Essential nutrients for thyroid management.
Several nutrients are important for healthy thyroid. The top three being:
- Iodine: Iodine is a crucial mineral to make thyroid hormones. People with iodine deficiency are at risk of hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency is widespread, affecting nearly one-third of the world's population.
Since Iodine is found in abundance in sea food only, most people who do not consume sea food are at a risk of deficiency. Besides this, the level of mercury and toxins in sea food overshadow the benefits of iodine it contains. To ensure you get enough iodine per day, it is essential to include 'iodised salt' to your regular cooking.
Note, not all salt contains iodine naturally.. You will have to look out out for a brand of salt that contains iodine. Pink salt, black salt and sea salt will not naturally contain iodine and is best avoided.
Another way to include iodine to your diet is by including sea vegetables like nori sheets and kelp once a week to your nutritional plan. Since sea vegetables do not have muscles (where toxins are often stored) like sea animals, they often are not contaminated with toxins and safe to eat.
It is also important to understand that too much iodine can be as bad as too little iodine. You need no more than 1/4th of a teaspoon of iodised salt worth of iodine per day. Or, an addition of 2-3 nori sheets per week. I personally like to include vegan sushi as my dinner once every week.
- Selenium: Selenium helps activate the thyroid hormones so the body can use them. This essential mineral has antioxidant benefits meaning it protects the thyroid gland from damage by free radicals.
The recommended daily intake for selenium is 55 mcg. One of the best sources for the same I recommend my clients is to consume Brazil nuts. A single nut contains as much as 65 mcg of selenium, more than enough to meet the recommended intake.
By just including one Brazil nut per day has proven to help my clients drastically in managing a thyroid disorder.
- Zinc: Zinc helps the body to activate thyroid hormones similar to selenium. Studies have shown that zinc can help the body regulate TSH levels, which tells the thyroid gland to release hormones.
Whole grains and legumes are good sources to get zinc. Make sure to consume three servings of grains and three servings of lentils/ pulses per day. Zinc is also better absorbed when consumed with Vitamin C, thus, sprinkle some lemon or coriander on your sabzi's.
Which nutrients are harmful to the thyroid hormone?
One particular nutrient acts against the thyroid hormone:
- Goitrogens: Goitrogens are compounds that disrupt the the normal function of the thyroid gland. They get their name from goitre, meaning an enlarged thyroid gland with hypothyroidism.
Many common foods contain goitrogens. These are:
- Soy foods like tofu, tempeh, edamame, etc.
- Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, etc.
- Certain fruits and starchy plants, including sweet potatoes, cassava, peaches, strawberries, etc.
In theory, people with hypothyroidism must avoid goitrogens. But here is where I see the most misunderstanding among clients.
By reducing the above food groups, you also restrict diversity on your diet, thus making gut health and the auto immune condition worse. Instead, work to include the above food groups only in cooked forms.
Goitrogens are destroyed when exposed to heat. Thus, by cooking tofu, including kale in soup's instead of smoothies and sticking to well cooked potatoes does not affect the thyroid hormone function. Plus makes nutrition more holistic and sustainable.
Besides this, goitrogen rich foods are really only a problem in people with iodine deficiency. As long as you are using iodised salt, eating cruciferous vegetables in raw form also has little effect on the body.
I DO NOT recommend my clients restrict any plant food groups. Plant diversity is key to good health.
Quick Tips for weight loss with hypothyroidism.
Regular exercise, healthy food choices, and lifestyle changes are critical components to losing weight. However, if you have hypothyroidism, your approach should be to first reach hormonal stability and avoid any sort of crash diets.
Making specific dietary changes may help in boosting weight loss success.
These six strategies can help jump-start your weight loss with hypothyroidism.
- Cut out Dairy products: Proteins and lactose (milk sugar) directly trigger inflammation in the body. Besides this, anti- bodies are release by our immune system to attack dairy protein as our body does not recognise dairy.
These anti- bodies end up attacking the cells of the thyroid hormone that are destroyed in the cross fire. Thus, with every cup of milk or a serving of cheese, you are destroying your thyroid gland a little more. Watch this to know more:
- Eat More Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Anti-inflammatory foods helps ease joint aches, pains and depression resulting from hypothyroidism. Furthermore, anti-inflammatory foods help boost the immune system, which is often in an overdrive in hypothyroidism. Make sure to include 8- 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
- Avoid extreme diet's: The worse combination for people with a slow metabolism is overtraining and under eating. By eating anything less than 1500 calories per day, you end up further slowing your metabolism and train the body to store more calories as triglycerides or fat cells. Thus, your low calorie diet might be back firing on your on a long run. Instead work with a nutritionist who understand hormonal balance and can help you select nutritionally dense foods for thyroid management.
- Keep a Food Diary: People always do better when there is accountability. I insist my clients use my fitness and nutrition app to click pictures of what they are eating and maintain a food journal. This makes you aware of your food choices better and also helps discover craving patterns, food associations and better understand one's relationship with food.
- Move Your Body: Exercise helps in various ways to manage hormones, better balance hunger and satiety signals and boost metabolism. It is absolutely essential to choose the right fitness form and work with an expert to help you progressively overload your training intensity to match your goals. I do not recommend my clients overtrain or indulge in an intense training routine unless you are an athlete.
- Take Thyroid Medication as Directed: As recommended by your doctor, thyroid hormone should be taken on an empty stomach early morning with only water. Avoid tea/ coffee as your first meal post medication. It is best to stay empty stomach for at least 40 minutes post taking your medication and then eat a wholesome breakfast consisting of fruits, whole grains, vegetables and pulses.
Vegetarian Weight Loss Diet Plan For Hypothyroidism:
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